Wednesday, 29 April 2009

No. 113 : Without A Clue

This film opens with Sherlock Holmes apprehending a gang of thieves using his customary wit and a bit of derring do - but things are not all they seem. Once the police and press have gone home from fawning over the master detective he gets yelled at by his assistant, Dr Watson.

Dr Watson, it transpires, is the brains of the outfit and Sherlock Holmes is a character he’s created for his mystery stories, who is played by an unemployed actor. Watson is annoyed that his creation hogs the limelight and he gets no joy when he asks his publisher to let him take centre stage as ‘The Doctor Detective’.

With their relationship broken down Holmes (an excellent Michael Caine) hits the bottle and chases the ladies but soon runs out of cash. Watson on the other hand is threatened with breach of contract by his publisher (Peter Cook) and charged by the Queen herself to investigate the theft of some printing blocks which could ruin the Empire through counterfeit cash.

The duo reluctantly team up and are soon visited by the lovely Lysette Anthony who says her printer father has been abducted. This together with some imported ink and a fire at a paper factory suggest large scale forging is underway and the only man capable of such a neferious feat is the evil Dr Moriarty.

During a shoot out at the docks Watson is seemingly killed it’s up to the hapless Holmes to solve the case with only the help of his landlady and lovely Lynette. With the baddies traced to an old theatre Holmes has to rely on his actor’s training rather than his wits to save the day.

I really enjoyed this film despite it’s pretty straightforward plot and slap stick gags. Michael Caine does a great old soak and Ben Kingsley offers a good counterpoint as the undervalued Watson. The production is sumptuous throughout with Victorian London looking marvellous, replete with urchins and gas lamps.

Of the second string I was a bit disappointed in the usually reliable Jeffrey ‘Beuller’ Jones as Inspector LeStrade whose voice seemed badly dubbed. Maybe his 'gor blimey' accent didn’t cut the mustard but it was distracting nonetheless. Lysette Anthony did her usual posh bird bit and she certainly offered few surprises when her character’s motivations were revealed - nice stockings though!

Despite a few throat slashings this is good family fayre with no sex or swearing. Normally that’d put me off but there is a lot to like in this film with great performances from the two leads and a reasonable sprinkling of laughs throughout.

Best Bit : The mystery of the ass grabber is solved
‘W’ Rating 17/23

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